Not Always Right

THERE is a website called Not Always Right in which people serving the public list all their gripes about customers.

The ones below made me laugh. I worked in newspapers for more than 30 years and this is typical of the kind of phone call we'd get. I once had a call from a local villain who had come up in court - yet again. He said he was calling to complain because he hadn't given us permission to use his name in the paper. I politely explained that we didn't need permission to name people in court. Unless there was a court order forbidding it, we always named people.

"That's not the f***ing point," he yelled at me. "Don't you realise, I've been trying to keep my name OUT of the papers and now you've ruined it!"

I was going to comment that if he didn't go around burgling people's houses, we wouldn't be reporting his court case, but he hung up.

Not Always Right conversations

Me: *on the phone* “**** Newspaper, can I help you?”

Caller: “Hi, is this the obituaries?”

Me: “Yes ma’am, it is.”

Caller: “I need to place one.”

Me: “OK ma’am. You can send that to me via fax or email.”

Caller: “What do they typically say?”

Me: “They vary, but some good information is where the individual was born, when they passed away–”

Caller: “Oh, he’s not dead yet.”

Me: “I–I’m sorry?”

Caller: “He’s very sick, though. Should be any day.”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but we can’t run an obituary until the individual has died.”

Caller: *sighs heavily* “Well that’s VERY inconvenient.” *hangs up*

Then there was this one:

(I used to work in a small town newspaper. Most everyone would leave earlier in the afternoon and one person would be left to man the phones for an hour or so in the newsroom. This day, I’m the only staff member on hand, and there’s a guy using our microfilm for research. The phone rings.)

Me: “Hello, this is [Newspaper]. Can I help you?”

Lady: “Yes! I am very upset! I just read an article in your paper about the fire that destroyed our house and everything in it is wrong!”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry about that… Can you tell me who wrote the article?”

Lady: “It’s [Name I’ve never heard].”

Me: “Uh… I’m not familiar with that name but…”

Lady: “No, wait, it’s [Reporter].”

Me: “Oh! Yes… he isn’t in the office today, but he should be in tomorrow about seven.”

Lady: “I want this taken care of now! You have no idea what we’ve been through! I just now got around to reading the article and I see all this wrong stuff and it’s like it happened all over again! I want him to rewrite the whole thing!”

Me: *thinking I’ll grab a copy of the paper and re-read the article* “Can you tell me when the article was written?”

Lady: “The fire happened in May!”

Me: “But it’s now October…”

Lady: “So?”

Me: “Ma’am, I’m sorry but that happened five months ago. We’re not going to be able to redo the story.”

Lady: “BUT WHY NOT?! He got EVERYTHING wrong!”

Me: “I understand that, but so much time has passed and—”

Me: “It’s [Editor], but she’s going to tell you the same thing.”

(By now the guy at the microfilm machine is watching me with a “WTF?” expression.)

Lady: “I’m going to call her tomorrow! And you’re going to reprint this! You don’t know what I’ve been through!” *hangs up*

(I explain the conversation to the guy at the microfilm.)

Microfilm Guy: “If it was so important, why did she wait five months to read the article?”

Me: “I should have asked her that.”

(When I got to work the next morning my editor asked about the note I left her and then asked the same question. To our knowledge the woman never called back.)

 Finally, there was this one:

(Our newspaper always gets strange calls. After one story I wrote about first aid training at the Red Cross, I get the following call from a reader…)

Me: “Hello, [newspaper]. How may I help you?”

Reader: “Yeah, I’m here at the Red Cross.”

Me: “… okay?”

Reader: “They just told me the first aid class you wrote about is full.”

Me: “Oh, okay.”

Reader: *silence*

Me: “Sir? What’s the problem?”

Reader: “Well, I have a friend who really needs to get into this class, but they said it’s full!”

Me: “I’m so sorry, sir.”

Reader: “Well?”

Me: “I’m sorry?”

 Reader: “Well, what are you going to do about it? Can’t you tell them to add a seat to the class?”

Me: “Umm, no, sir. I’m just a reporter. I can’t tell the Red Cross what to do. I’m sorry your friend can’t get in the class in time.”

Reader: “Well, what is he supposed to do? He needs the training now!”

Me: “Well, I believe the hospital teaches a first aid class.”

Reader: “They do? Can you call them for me?”

Me: “No, sir, I’m afraid I have a tight deadline today. I can’t take the time to look into that. Maybe you could call your friend and tell him?”

Reader: *sarcastically* “Yeah, whatever. Thanks for your help.”

I'm sure lots of my former colleagues have similar stories to tell. The vast majority of customers are lovely but any job in which you are dealing with the public can be frustrating and often hilarious.

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  1. You weren't very helpful to the last caller. Would it have killed you to run your own first aid class?

  2. Holy cow! This makes me sooo glad to be out of the work force. Thank you for sharing these. Gorilla's comment cracks me up, too. Happy blogging!

  3. I have a writer friend who takes it as his mission to torment telemarketers. He publishes his conversations on Facebook and we keep telling him he need to publish a book of them. They are hilarious.


  4. That's one of my favourite sites. I used to be a checkout chook.

  5. Aren't people amazing? Judging by the comments I see below some of the articles I read, there will always be that one special person (or more) not quite ready for prime time;-) What an interesting line of work.

  6. GB: I was busy that week...
    Darla: Thanks for comment. Missing your music posts!
    Kathleen: I do that too sometimes! Would love to read what your friend has done.
    River: I bet you have a few stories to tell of your own.
    Diedre: Ah, the great British/American public!

  7. I work in a library where people expect to get information. However, a lot of times, the examples are just like you printed.